Anyone, anytime, anywhere Featured

1:22pm EDT May 24, 2004
You have 200 employees dispersed over four time zones in nine locations. Training them is an ongoing need, either to upgrade their job skills or ensure regulatory compliance, but traditional methods -- bringing them all together in one location -- is costly and cumbersome, and not guaranteed to be effective.

Online training can offer a solution. Essentially training available on demand, it can offer instruction at times and locations convenient for the user. Sam Shaaban, CEO and co-founder of NuRelm E-Business Software, calls online training a combination of technology and service required to deliver effective training to the right people at the right time.

Shaaban concedes that the most effective training situation may be one-on-one, but the development of technology, improvements in curriculum and the availability of computers are making online training an attractive, cost-effective alternative to traditional methods. Online training can leverage existing technology within an organization; most companies have computers available with Internet access for some or virtually all of their employees. And for employees with computer phobia, modules can be included to help them overcome their fear of the technology.

Automation in an online program can take care of some of the grunt work involved in administering training, Shaaban says. Online learning systems employ a learning management system that can perform some tasks automatically, such as tracking learner performance or documenting course completion.

NuRelm offers an online training management tool it calls Osmosis. The training content is stored on a central server; users can access it anywhere from a PC and are quizzed to make sure they are taking the course. Osmosis is offered to clients as a software package or accessed through an application service provider.

Shaaban warns, however, that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for training, online or otherwise. Highly motivated learners for whom you have a minimal need to track their compliance and learning require one kind of program design, while learners who require motivation and detailed tracking to ensure they are taking the course and that learning takes place demand a different model.

Simple models, such as PowerPoint presentations online, can be inexpensive and easy to build, but the results are likely to be uneven, Shaaban says.

Likewise, Shaaban says, Web conferencing can be a cheap way to conduct training, but usually isn't very effective.

Says Shaaban: "I would think of it as sort of like a bad staff meeting." How to reach: NuRelm E-Business Software, www.nurelm.com